Tools of the Trade

Manuel Mejia Jr's Four Old Macs

Manuel Mejia Jr - January 2002

Of the various members that make up the Low End Mac team, I seem to be the one that can claim the award for using the oldest computer machinery. I am one of those computer users that give Apple nightmares when it comes to marketing new systems.

I got my first Mac in 1991. It was a Classic, one of the last ones made. I used that machine for four years until I sold it to a school teacher. At last word, she was still using it and a StyleWriter printer.

I currently use four different systems.

The one that is used most often is an LC running System 7.01 with Tune-up. This Mac, while classified as a Road Apple, is a capable machine. It is currently at its maximum RAM configuration, a whopping 10 megs. It has a 40 meg hard drive, and I have 34 megs of applications and files on that drive. Accessories include an ImageWriter II printer and a 2400 bps Global Village modem. I am planning to add a LaserWriter IINTX to the system in a few weeks. I have a 13" monitor plugged in to the LC.

What do I do with a Jurassic LC? Just about everything - word processing using WordPerfect 2.1, spreadsheets using Excel 3.0, paper newsletter creation and editing using Page Maker 2.0, black and white graphics using MacPaint 2.0 and Photoshop 1.0, and email using a Unix shell account and Z-term 0.9.

The only tasks that I do not do with the LC is graphics and Web page creation. The LC only displays in 16 colors, and System 7.01 does not support a graphical browser. Until very recently, I used to use a Mac IIcx running System 7.1 and a 250 meg hard drive for Web work and graphics.

In 2001, the IIcx was showing signs of multiple component failure. I replaced it with a PowerBook 2300 Duo with Dock, 4x CD-ROM, 16 megs of RAM, and another 13" monitor. I currently have OS 7.6.1 and a 250 meg hard drive running on the 2300. I could have installed OS 8.1, but I found that OS 8 runs slowly on early generation PowerPC computers. The 2300 runs at only 100 MHz. This is an improvement from the 16 MHz LC and IIcx. I plan to add an old Apple CD burner to this system in another few weeks. This will allow me to archive images that I have made over the years.

The 2300 inherited the printers from the IIcx - a StyleWriter 1200 and a StyleWriter 1500. I do quite a bit of printing both in color and in black and white. This is why I have so many different printers.

Occasionally, I do have to do some work on the road. For this, I either use a PowerBook 100 or PowerBook 100a PowerBook 145B. The PB 100 runs System 7.01, while the 145B runs on System 7.1. Both still use their original 2400 baud modems and stock 40 or 80 meg hard drives.

The 2300 Duo spends most of its days hooked up to its dock. It will probably stay that way, since I need it more as a desktop. I also determined that Z-term 0.9 does not work with System 7.6.1. That OS prefers more modern ISP software. Since my Unix shell account just needs a terminal emulator, not an entire graphical browser, the 2300 is not compatible with my ISP.

I do not have any network connections between these computer systems. I do not transfer files from one system to another, because I have specialized my computer collection to do specific tasks. When I have to transfer a file, such as a .jpg from the Internet, I just load it on floppy disk and transfer it from the LC, PB 100, or PB 145B to the PB 2300 Duo.

Why do I keep using equipment this old? The main reasons are cost and my computer needs. At over $1,000, an up to date, flat panel iMac is outside my price range. The cost of replacement software for programs like Page Maker would add another $1,000 to the cost of a new system.

As far as my needs go, what I have does more than I need it to do. I do not spend many hours reviewing the Web or doing tasks like on-line shopping. Most of my online time is spent reading email and reviewing LEM.

I have a scanner that sits unused next to the 2300. I do not even recall the last time I used the device.

My needs are met by used Mac hardware. I really do not have to upgrade. I have no justification to upgrade. LEM

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